May 29, 2010
Heading into the weekend when the nation honors those who made the ultimate sacrifice., the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, which claims to be a legitimate nonprofit organization, was told to stop all fundraising activities in Ohio.

The order was issued by Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray after it was determined that the association's registration documents contained false and misleading information.

Recent news accounts questioning the fundraising and expenses by the U.S. Navy Veterans Association in other states prompted the Attorney General's Charitable Law Section to examine the organization's activities in Ohio.

"There are serious questions being raised about the legitimacy of this organization and its fundraising activities in Ohio and across the country," said Cordray. "We're going to shut down this organization's fundraising activities unless and until it can provide satisfactory answers to our questions. We need to do this to protect the hard-earned reputations of all our legitimate nonprofit veterans organizations in Ohio."

Lack of accountability

In a letter to the U. S. Navy Veterans Association and the individuals named as its directors, the AG cites numerous violations of the state's registration requirements. They include:

• Listing a UPS mailbox as the organization's principal place of business

• Failing to provide phone numbers for the organization's offices

• Failing to provide addresses for directors, trustees and executive personnel

Additionally, investigators in the Charitable Law Section have been unable to locate any of the three people listed on the registration documents as having final responsibility for the custody of contributions in Ohio. The addresses listed for these individuals are all UPS mailboxes and the phone numbers listed are all cell phones that connect to the same voicemail box for the U.S. Navy Veterans Association.

Watch out for scams

"While we honor our veterans on this Memorial Day weekend, we must remain vigilant of those fundraising organizations that seek to deceive donors and siphon off money from legitimate organizations serving our veterans," said Cordray. He offered the following guidelines and suggestions to keep in mind when considering a charitable contribution:

• Recognize that the words "veterans" or "military families" in an organization's name do not necessarily mean that your donation will actually go to these worthy causes. Some phony charities deliberately use names, seals and logos that look or sound like those of respected, legitimate organizations.

• Donate to charities with a track record and a history. Charities that spring up overnight may disappear just as quickly and never deliver any money to your intended beneficiaries.

• Ask questions about the charity's specific programs and services and where the charity is located. Ask for written information to evaluate before making a gift. Charities in good standing are happy to provide information about themselves; scammers will be more resistant to answering basic questions.

• Ask what percentage of your donation will actually go to the charitable cause and the specific programs you support. Solicitors are required to provide this information under Ohio law.